Overall Rank: #106
Conference Rank: #1 Big Sky Conference
2008-09: 21-10, 15-1
2008-09 postseason: NIT
Coach: Randy Rahe (57-35 at Weber State, 57-35 overall)
Weber State was supposed to be rebuilding during the 2008-2009 campaign. Instead Coach Randy Rahe’s squad simply dominated the Big Sky Conference and ended up with an extremely impressive 15-1 conference record. An early exit in the tournament kept their NCAA Tournament dreams unfulfilled, but the Wildcats will give it another try this time around.
Key Losses: F Daviin Davis, G Kellen McCoy
The Wildcats only lose two key contributors, but they are bringing in seven quality players. Point guard Josh Noble, shooting guard Lindsey Hughey and wing Franklin Session are all junior college transfers who have the ability to make a big impact right away. Hughey or Session are likely to step into a starting position from day one and all three junior college transfers will be asked to at least contribute off the bench. Incoming freshmen Pablo Coro, Dee Crandall, Blake Davis and Byron Fulton form a quality group of freshmen, but Coach Rahe will not need them to contribute right away.
The surprising success of the Wildcats last year can be partially attributed to the play of Damian Lillard. As a freshman, Lillard averaged 11.5 points per game and a team high 2.9 assists. He is even a pretty good rebounder for a 6-2 guard. Coming off of a season in which he became the first freshman to earn Big Sky first-team accolades since Rodney Stuckey, the sky is the limit for Lillard. Without Kellen McCoy by his side, Weber State will need Nick Hansen to emerge as a quality starter. Hansen is a superb outside shooter, but that is about all he does. If the 6-4 senior can start getting to the basket a little more often he will be a great scorer.
Both Kyle Bullinger and Steven Panos are back to start in the frontcourt. Bullinger had a surprisingly effective freshman campaign, tallying 8.7 points and a team high 4.5 rebounds. If the 6-6 Mountain View, Wyoming native can keep it up, he will have a great career at Weber State. At 6-6, Bullinger is a little undersized for a power forward, but he does get the job done. Steve Panos is the bigger body under the basket. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, Panos is the main threat on both ends of the floor under the basket. He is a quality scorer and a decent rebounder and will provide plenty of leadership.
Who to Watch:
Daviin Davis only started six games last year, but the departing senior was third on the team in scoring and the only player who was a legitimate shot blocking threat. Without him coming in for Bullinger and Panos, the Wildcats could suffer on both ends of the floor. Yet, that role off the bench could be taken over by Trevor Morris or junior college transfer Matt Washington, who redshirted last season. Morris is a good defender and, at 6-9, has the size to turn the Wildcats frontcourt into a large unit when it needs to be.
This is a team that lost its top scorer and a great sixth man who provided more than most sixth men do in college basketball. Yet, the returning talent was young and will get better. Barring sophomore slumps, Lillard and Bullinger are in for big years and Coach Rahe brought in enough experience from the junior college ranks to make this the team to beat in the Big Sky.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Damian Lillard, Sophomore, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Lindsey Hughey, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Nick Hansen, Senior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Kyle Bullinger, Sophomore, Forward, 8.7 points per game
Steve Panos, Senior, Center, 9.4 points per game